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West Jr. Now Talking About Smithsonian-Financed Portrait

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Going back to an ongoing story we were talking about this weekend about former director of the National Museum of the American Indian, W. Richard West Jr., and his spending $48,500 of Smithsonian bucks on a portrait of himself, we see that the original report from the AP has been updated with a few quotes from West himself:

West, who was traveling Friday in Australia, told The Associated Press he initially resisted the idea of a portrait of himself.

“What I want to be clear about is it was not a project initiated by me,” West said. “Believe me, if I had known it was going to come up in this context, I would not have done it.”

West said a member of the museum’s board of trustees proposed the portrait, but declined to name the board member. He said he eventually allowed the portrait to go forward and tried to find a native artist, but several declined the commission because they did not work in portraiture.

“I think that there was a feeling at the time that this was an appropriate kind of recognition,” West said. “Without claiming too much, I want to be modest about it, I was the founding director. I had seen the museum go from patches of earth to three facilities.”

We’re on the fence, deciding whether to feel for the guy or to try push away what could be a potential red-faced escape from the blame. It does kinda seem like the sort of thing that would be decided on from up top, because, heck, big institutions like that love painting their own. But then all the money dried up and who to throw to the wolves but West? Still, if we’ve learned anything from our New Year’s marathon of Chris Angel’s Mindfreak reruns, it’s that nothing is ever as it seems.

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